MASAKA: Some Catholic faithful in Masaka diocese are panicking over the impending demolition of the ancient Cathedral cemetery to make way for a road project. The affected cemetery sits next to the Masaka Diocesan Cathedral in Kitovu in Masaka city and is a burial ground for hundreds of people who have close connections to the Catholic faith and the Church.
Established in 1906, the cemetery has now been earmarked for demolition to open the route for the 4.6-kilometer Nyendo-Cathedral to Kitovu Hospital road, which Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA is set to start working on. The Reverend Fr. Deusdedit Luyimbaazi, the Estates Manager of Masaka Diocese, notes that according to the design, the road will partly run through the cemetery, which requires relocation of some of the remains that are underneath to pave way for the project.
According to Fr. Luyimbaazi, out of mutual engagements with UNRA, the Masaka diocese as the landlord agreed to have all the affected graves relocated to make way for the project without any financial compensation from the government. He indicates that besides the remains of a few known religious people who the diocese can easily transfer, the cemetery has several other bodies, some of whose relatives are not even known due to the very long time since they were buried.
He explains that due to the great significance that the road presents to both the church and the community, the Diocese could not forego it for the cemetery, hence choosing to have them relocated.
Some of the notable people buried in the cemetery include white missionary priests, the mother of the founding Bishop of Masaka Diocese, and Joseph Kiwanuka, who eventually became the pioneer African Archbishop of the South of Sub-Saharan Africa.
But Fr. Luymbaazi indicates the graves of the majority of these people are outside the road demarcation and will not be interfered with. Dr. Luyimbaazi says that through the public announcements, the diocese is currently calling upon relatives of the other unknown people who are laying in the cemetery to come and locate their burial sites and have their remains relocated to other graves.
Rosemary Nankubuge, a resident of Kikaawa village in Bukomansimbi district, one of the people whose relatives were buried in the affected cemetery, says that their family is currently perplexed after they got calls to relocate the remains of their grandparents who died in the 1980s.
According to Nankubuge, their family is so scattered that the available relatives cannot afford to undertake the process of exhuming the remains.
Florence Namyenya and Jessica Nampewo, whose parents are also destined for relocation, argue that they cannot afford the process at short notice. They indicate that their deceased parents were ardent Christians who consciously requested to be buried next to the cathedral, arguing that the family would not wish to interfere with their remains.
But Engineer Henry Komaketch, the Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA Zonal Manager in Charge of Masaka, indicates that the project does not cater for compensation of any properties. He urges the people whose relatives are affected to liaise with the Diocesan administration to work out modalities for relocating the remains.